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Microsoft Surface Duo UK Release Date, Pricing and Spec News

After months of teasing and a steady stream of leaks, the Surface Duo finally went on sale in the US in September 2020. Microsoft’s very first Surface phone sports a radically different design to most handsets, with dual 5.6in screens that fold in on each other.

It also runs Android, representing a big departure from Microsoft’s now-discontinued Windows Phone OS. There’s been plenty of excitement surrounding the Duo and what it could mean for the future of phones (and Microsoft’s Surface line), and it might not be too long before the device is released globally.

When was the Surface Duo released in the US? 

The Surface Duo was initially unveiled at Microsoft’s hardware event in October 2019, alongside a ‘Holiday 2020’ release date. 

That was subsequently brought forward to 10 September 2020, although since launch the device has only been available to buy in the US. 

When will the Surface Duo come to the UK?

Zac Bowden at Windows Central says the UK and other markets will probably have to wait until 2021, and a subsequent article from the same author suggests it will be “shortly after the new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop launch”. With those devices now slated for release in January 2020, we might not be waiting long for an international release. 

The official line is that Microsoft will “share more information about market expansion at a later date”.

Image: Microsoft

How much will the Surface Duo cost?

As has been the case with nearly all foldables so far, the Surface Duo doesn’t come cheap.

In the same blog post as mentioned above, a starting price was revealed: US$1,399.99. That translates to around £1,060 at the time of writing, although you may have to pay as much as £1,399 once it comes to the UK. 

That will get you a version with 128GB of storage, while stepping up to 256GB will cost US$1,499.99. If you’re based in the US, you can buy from the Microsoft Store, as well as via Best Buy and AT&T.

That puts it in direct competition with the Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip (£1,300) and the £1,399 Motorola Razr 5G, although it’s a very different form factor to those two. 

Surface Duo folding phone

Microsoft Surface Duo specs

Alongside the recent announcement of the Surface Duo’s price and release date, a number of the rumoured specs were confirmed.

These include those leaked back in May by Windows Central’s Zac Bowden:

Other key specs are as follows:

  • 2x 5.6in 1800×1350 OLED displays, can become single 8.1in 2700×1800 screen
  • 4:3 aspect ratio (3:2 when combined)
  • 3,577mAh battery split across both displays
  • Support for video up to 4K 60fps
  • Side-mounted fingerprint sensor

The use of a chipset from 2018 may come as a surprise to some, but the 865 requires a separate 5G chip and was unveiled after the Duo made its debut. It may also have allowed Microsoft to keep costs down slightly.

However, as Windows Latest is reporting, the latest Geekbench 5 benchmarks suggest the Duo is a solid performer. 

Surface Duo Geekbench
Image: Geekbench

The multi-core score here puts it above the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, Motorola Razr and Galaxy Fold, and behind only the iPhone 11 Pro Max among similarly priced devices. 

We also have confirmation of the apps that will come pre-installed on the Surface Duo, courtesy of Windows Latest. As an Android phone, the 35 apps include 20 from Google and 15 from Microsoft. 

App compatibility on the Duo has been a topic of discussion ever since the device was announced, and Windows Central has now published a list of the apps that are optimised to run across the dual-screen design:

Talking of software, Microsoft has confirmed to Android Authority that the Surface Duo will receive three years of Android updates. This should take it right up to the release of Android 14, and matches similar commitments made by Google and Samsung recently.

Microsoft will be hoping the design of the Surface Duo means it’s able to overcome problems more efficiently. As Windows Central reports, the device will come with a custom UEFI (formerly BIOS) that allows the company to respond directly to any software-related threats. However, this additional layer of security may also mean it takes Android patches longer to be approved for the Duo. 

Talking of software, Windows Latest reported in September 2020 that Microsoft is working on a significant software update for the Duo. This will primarily focus on the camera, with improvements to EIS (electronic image stabilisation), live previews of HDR images and new modes such as “Image Refiner” and “Photo Solid”.

While these features appear to still be at the internal testing phase, the device’s November update provides further minor improvements. As Windows Latest again reports, unlocked devices now benefit from refinements to the overall camera experience. 

The Duo is also expected to be upgraded to Android 11 in the near future as it continues with monthly OS updates

If you’d like to see the Duo in action for yourself, Microsoft has published a 35-minute deep-dive video, featuring Chief Product Officer Panos Panay. This was initially only available to select members of the press, before being released publicly on 13 August. 

We discussed the Surface Duo in episode 28 of Fast Charge, Tech Advisor’s weekly phone show. Discussion of the Surface Duo starts at 22 minutes in:

Earlier leaks

The Surface Duo shipped with Android 10, but an update to Android 11 is still in the pipeline. Back in June, Windows Central gave us our first look at how stock apps will run on the Duo. Pictured below is Outlook:

Image: Windows Central

All Microsoft’s apps will be built to work across both screens, often using one side as an overview and the other to dive into something specific.

Via an emulator build of the Surface Duo’s software, Windows Central has also gave an in-depth look at how multiple functions on the device will work. The video confirmed what was long suspected – on the Surface Duo there is the option to choose between traditional on-screen buttons or gestures for navigation. 

However, all these demos are shown using Microsoft’s apps. We don’t know how many third-party developers are updating their apps to take advantage of both screens, or whether they’ll be ready in time for the Surface Duo’s release.  

In addition to having full Surface Pen support, Windows Latest unearthed some exciting functionality for creatives. Via an API known as ‘Hinge Angle Sensor’, developers will now be able to build functionality into their apps to allow a smooth transition when the Surface Duo unfolds. 

The same article also hints at Microsoft working on gesture support for the Duo. Among those mooted is a double-tap of the pen to take a screenshot. The above video also confirms what the same article suggested, with the option to choose between 

Below is the information we found out when the Surface Duo was unveiled in October 2019: 

The Duo is essentially a smaller version of the Surface Neo. They’re both dual-screen folding devices, but the Duo is a smartphone running Android.

It has a pair of 5.6in 1800×1350 OLED displays separated by a 360-degree hinge, so this isn’t a single folding screen like the Galaxy Fold. On the back is Gorilla Glass and the design means you can bend it into different forms like a convertible 2-in-1 laptop.

Surface Duo Android

Microsoft has also made it compatible with the Surface Pen stylus, but little else has been confirmed about the Surface Duo. The video shown looks like USB-C is the chosen port.

There have been various sightings of the Surface Duo since its unveiling, including from Microsoft employees. Senior Director Frank X. Shaw very deliberately placed it on the table of his work from home setup, before highlighting a potential use case while following a recipe:

Chief Product Officer Panos Panay has previously showcased its photography capabilities:

The Surface Duo wasn’t the only dual-screen device announced by Microsoft at its October 2019 event. Read all about the Surface Neo here. 

At the same event, the company announced the Surface Laptop 3, Surface Pro 7, Surface Pro X and Surface Earbuds.

The Duo hasn’t even been released yet, but we’re already considering its potential successor. Here’s all you need to know about the Surface Duo 2. 

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